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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 09-03-13, 06:25 PM   #1
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Grocery distance

I live in the suburbs. It's a solid 5-mile round trip to my closest local grocery store, with some hills. There's a drugstore about 2 mi round trip but they are expensive and don't have fresh food. Due to health problems I can make about 9-11 mph on the commuterized MTB, that would be the tractor. Not sure how much a trailer uphill would slow me further, but I imagine a lot. It could easily make for an hour of cycling. This has kept me from doing more with the bike rather than taking the car or truck.

How far do you travel with your cargo?
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Old 09-03-13, 06:47 PM   #2
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My grocery haul used to be 14 miles round trip, 10 miles if I went to the farm down the road for fresh veggies. Now I have a store 1.25 miles away.

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Old 09-03-13, 07:00 PM   #3
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I live on a small farm/ranch right next to a subdivision. Years ago one of my neighbors sold his farm to a developer and now I've got the accursed sub'ys for neighbors who let vicious dogs run free and attack my stock and think my planted fields are parks for them to tramp through like they own the place and destroy my crops before they even have a chance and I'm nearly at a constant state of war with them having to put up multiple layers of military style coiled electric fencing with thick enough spacing and powerful enough charge to keep people out even those equipped with insulated wire cutters and do not trespass signs all over and shoot their dogs when they let them run loose and attack and kill my stock (it is a criminal offense in my area to let your dog run loose off of your own property even if the dog isn't vicious).

So I'm not really a fan of sub'ys since my experience with them is that they have no respect for anyone but themselves and will willfully and knowingly attack their neighbors and it is necessary to resort to extreme measures including lethal force to defend one's crops and livestock from them and their vicious predator animals that they will criminally let run loose. Their kids who have a gang culture are the worst. They are just a pack of two legged predators with even more vicious two and four legged smaller copies of themselves they produce and let run loose to do their dirty work.

I've got usually a minimum 10-mile one way to get good groceries (my own crops and stock aren't diverse enough and are too seasonal to cover all my own needs, you can't survive on just the 40-acres of one crop you planted and you when you do harvest its way too much to eat it all yourself and you need something to eat while it is growing). A smaller town is available at only about 5-miles one way but the prices and selection are not as good.

I suggest the use of an electric assist for those kind of distances. All of my own cargo bikes built for hauling and/or towing are hybrid powered that us an additional source of power in addition to the human motor. That way you still get your exercise and a good workout and its still way better then driving a car.

I also hope you are substantially smarter then the vast majority average sub'y and show the most basic level of respect for your rural neighbors that is where your food comes from. Their fresh planted fields are not open public parks for you to tramp through at will, their barns are not convenient places for your gang-banger kids to hang out and smoke dope and start fires an end up burning the barn down, their stock is not free meals and chew toys for your dog and if you let your dog run free and fail to train that dog not to attack other peoples livestock the farmer has ever right to take care of your dog since you don't and you can be held criminally and civilly responsible including paying for the farmers expenses for him to deal with your vicious animal. In other words you won't only have to pay for the damage to the stock but you can end up paying for the cost of the bullet used by the farmer to stop your vicious animal from doing further damage. Yes, you may have to actually pay for the cost of the bullet, I've already won more the one suit and collected on that.

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Old 09-03-13, 07:08 PM   #4
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I don't think that a 5-mile round trip is excessive for groceries, but I don't have any health issues that limit my cycling. I've gone much further than that for errands. All you can do is try it and see how it works out. Just take it slow and steady....
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Old 09-04-13, 11:19 PM   #5
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Do you have another way of getting there? I'd say use your car or whatever you've been using and gradually go more frequently on the bike. That's what I've been doing lately. I ride more and drive less.
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Old 09-04-13, 11:57 PM   #6
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My usual grocery store is about 3 miles from home. But I frequently stop there on the way back from a group recreational ride. For example, my last trip to the grocery store consisted of a ride of over 50 hilly miles on the way there followed by a 3 mile flat ride home loaded with the groceries.
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Old 09-05-13, 11:38 AM   #7
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I am only slightly faster than your stated speed (avg ~ 12mph) and was slower when I started a few years ago. My preferred grocery store is about a six mile round trip. I don't use a trailer, but rather panniers and a rack. My required route has most of the hills I ever need to ride on, including three that took me some time to develop the endurance to be able to climb (and they aren't THAT BAD ~5% grade)... So I understand the health and physical restraints. However, I did gradually build the endurance to make those climbs and perform those grocery runs. It just took a little time and perseverance to continue making those grocery runs even when I needed to get off the bike and walk up the hill. Now I can do that grocery run quite easily, even when tired and sore from long recreational rides, or the outside temperature is 105... All told my entire shopping trip now takes 40m - 75m depending upon how much shopping I need to do.
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Old 09-05-13, 12:00 PM   #8
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I'm only a mile, and I still rarely bike and instead take the wifes car, because it's a mile out of the way (ie, not on the way home from work). But I'm also an inherently lazy person.
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Old 09-05-13, 10:25 PM   #9
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I got lucky. Most of the services I could need are within about a mile radius. And the rest are within 2 miles.
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Old 09-07-13, 02:30 AM   #10
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A Safeway is one mile away then a WinCO about two 1/2 miles, then a really good place Chuck's Produce about three miles.

So for really great produce only six miles round trip. Their bike rack placement really sucks though!
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Old 09-07-13, 12:50 PM   #11
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Half mile for me, but an 'over the river and through the woods' trip. I do it mostly to be contrary. Kool that one Kroger lady recognized the 'Kroger' bakery frosting buckets I was using for panniers. Now I notice several other bikers in the neighborhood, and one classic Schwinn with a set of cute, frilly trimmed Wald baskets. She lives over on the 'right' side of the tracks though...
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Old 09-30-13, 09:45 AM   #12
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We're pretty lucky, we have a little market (Sprouts) that carries most of our short term needs like produce, milk, some meats and it is less than a mile away. Other than produce, some of the prices are a little higher. We often just walk it and bring the kids in the wagon, but now that we have a Trek kid trailer, we've been taking the bikes more. We have two regular grocery stores about 1.5 - 2 miles away, but both are 150 ft climbs and so we are less inclined to go there. However, we do a once a month big haul at the commissary on the local base which is about 10 miles away. For that, we still use the car and fill the trunk to the max.
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Old 09-30-13, 10:46 AM   #13
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I suggest the use of an electric assist
This isn't a bad idea if you're trying to be able to get some exercise but are afraid of over-doing it. Some of the DIY options aren't too pricy (although still not cheap), but if you consider what you are saving in gas and gaining in exercise, I think you'll find that it's worth it.

In any case, make sure you have low gearing you need for pulling a loaded trailer up a hill. This can make a huge difference in what you can do.
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Old 09-30-13, 10:59 AM   #14
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I live centrally and am surrounded by good shopping; the Polish market is a walkable distance, Italian market is a few miles, and the Hungarian deli is a mile. Besides that I have an Ethiopian market between the Hungarian deli and Italian market.

I often travel to a middle eastern market which is 4 miles away.
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Old 09-30-13, 11:37 AM   #15
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65er, any Canadian markets?
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Old 09-30-13, 11:44 AM   #16
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I'm in the middle of the Duopoly of big grocery stores, the one, Meyer, gives a nickel credit
for not using a store take-out bag and the bike bags count for that credit.

its across a bridge to the west probably 2 miles.

The other is about 2 miles on the east end of town.

Mini Mart, is about 200M down the block, another, gas and such, across the street .
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Old 09-30-13, 02:27 PM   #17
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65er, any Canadian markets?


I am also within a few miles of several bigger chain stores but do not shop there nearly as often, our Italian Market is a local company with three locations in the city (and their own bakery) and they have the best deli and consistently beat the bigger stores on prices of many staples.

The Lebanese market serves a large middle eastern community and used to be within walking distance of where I worked but 8 miles is not a long ride and no-body has better produce prices, there are two butchers close by and a middle eastern bakery that serves excellent baclava and eastern pastries.

I live in a food wonderland that many suburbanites cannot even imagine exists.
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Old 09-30-13, 06:30 PM   #18
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Sounds peachy, 65er.

I haven't gotten groceries on/with a bike since we moved into New York in August. Not sure if I will, since many stores are in walking distance. The trick is to plan the shopping such that I go often and buy a small amount at a time. I'm getting used to city life again after being in the suburbs for the last 26 years. Last week, I took the car to Fairway, a rare supermarket with a parking lot, just because I'm used to shopping in the suburban way. It was, for the most part, very unfun.

I have a trailer and will eventually see how I like towing it in the city. I love it in the country and suburbs.
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Old 10-01-13, 12:13 PM   #19
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[edit] HEY I ALREADY POSTED BEFORE, FORGOT!!!

STILL... Not much... within 1/2 mi? OK, I live in a real food wasteland, with only a Kroger around the corner. Unless you count the 2 Dollar stores, 2 donut shops, 2 pizza parlors, 2 gas stations shops, Subway, McD, fried chicken joint and the Chinese place. As well as 2 dry clearers, 2 'clubs', bank, pawn shop, 3 nail & hair salons, and the booze store. Then nothing else for at least 6-8 miles of death defying roads to more strips... wow!!! So I do the Kroger when we need so little it will all go on the bike. Oh, I forgot the pretty flower shop. And, occasionally I get to pedal to Bubb's Hardware... At least there are sidewalks from the houses to the school bus stop. Closest bike shop is 17 miles via expressway. Oh, forgot to mention the 5 churches, 2 tire places, 4-wheeler warehouse, and the archery range. Real civilization...
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Old 10-01-13, 05:00 PM   #20
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I live just over a mile from 3 major food markets. If I am willing to push that to 3 I can add about 6 more. If I count small stores, which I never visit anyway(Too expensive), I could easily bump that number to over 20 within 1 mile and 5 within 6 blocks.
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Old 10-02-13, 10:37 AM   #21
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Our local "Chinamart" is on a beautiful linear park bike path. For us, we intentionally do the entire park to get groceries though we could just go straight there. With the linear park, we have a 7 mile round trip.
We don't count this as mileage for the day. Thus, if I intend to ride 20 miles that day, I'm still riding 20 miles because this seven is too short and not counted.
This is downtown Arlington (TX) so there is some grade here and there, but no enough grade anywhere to consider this other than flat.
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Old 10-02-13, 11:48 AM   #22
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How far is to far for frozen food? Mine would be about a 30 min ride...
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Old 10-02-13, 12:38 PM   #23
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How far is to far for frozen food? Mine would be about a 30 min ride...
Depends both on how well you insulate the food and the ambient temperature. 30 minutes if it's well insulated and not ridiculously hot out might be o.k. (I'd say it would probably be o.k., but I don't want to get sued when it's not. At the very least, I'd try it.)
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Old 10-02-13, 05:11 PM   #24
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How far is to far for frozen food? Mine would be about a 30 min ride...
Get a couple of the insulated bags. If we happen to drive and shop in the large town 20 miles south of us it can be close to an hour before we get home from the store. We use those bags and ice cream stays solid. FWIW I pack my own bags at the grocery store to avoid oops by the store staff.

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Old 10-02-13, 09:59 PM   #25
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Frozen food takes hour plus long trips home with me all the time. Insulated cooler bags and its still frozen, just not frozen as hard, by the time I get home so long as the heat isn't into the 90's or above.
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